The lawsuits that have revealed the Angelos family’s struggles over the control and future of the Orioles laid out preparations for a sale of the team, including the hiring of a law firm and investment bank, but team chairman and CEO John Angelos wants to retain his family’s control of the club, according to people familiar with his thinking.
Angelos, 55, prefers to sell a piece of the Orioles while continuing to retain his family’s majority control, two people told The Baltimore Sun in interviews. His ailing father, Peter Angelos, led a group that bought the club in 1993 and owns a clear majority of the shares, but it’s not publicly known how much more than 51% is in his hands.
John Angelos supports keeping the club under its local ownership, avoiding the upheaval of an ownership change and building on the success of a team that has a top-ranked minor league system and is in the surprising position of contending for a postseason berth, they said.
The two people have direct knowledge of John Angelos’ intentions, and one of them is a team official. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made about ownership changes. They cautioned that the situation was fluid and that many scenarios, including an outright sale, were possible.
“He does want to stay,” one of the people said.
John Angelos has publicly vowed that the team will be in the city “as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor.”
Team spokeswoman Jennifer Grondahl said she was not immediately available Monday afternoon to provide comment.
Peter Angelos, 93, is incapacitated due to health problems, according to documents filed in the lawsuits. In 2017, he granted power of attorney to his wife, Georgia Angelos, who is now 80.
The dispute over the future of the family’s best-known asset spilled into public in June, when Louis Angelos filed suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court against his mother and brother over what he characterized in court documents as John Angelos’ attempt to take control and ownership of their fortune. He alleged John Angelos stalled and thwarted an earlier plan to sell the team, unilaterally torpedoing interest from “one highly credible group of buyers.”
When Georgia Angelos responded with her own legal filing, those documents said her husband indicated that the team “should be sold on his death so Georgia could enjoy the great wealth they had amassed together.” And her attorneys indicated she was preparing to do so, writing she “had retained Goldman Sachs and Jones Day to provide investment banking and legal services in connection with the sale of the Orioles.” It’s not clear from the legal filings when the firms were retained.
That seemed to further raise the prospect of the family getting out of the baseball business. But Georgia Angelos’ suit also said her husband believed any sale of the team should be her decision. And it referred to efforts by John to sell “some or all of the club,” rather than specifying only a sale of the family’s entire share.
Any sale by the Angelos family is less likely while Peter Angelos is alive because that would result in steep capital gains taxes. A sale after his death could save the family hundreds of millions of dollars.
Teams may retain investment banking firms to handle even partial sales, and Major League Baseball vets potential owners, even those seeking less than a controlling stake. So, the hiring of Goldman Sachs wouldn’t by itself indicate preparations for a sale of Peter Angelos’ majority share.
Jeffrey Nusinov and Paul Raschke, attorneys for Louis Angelos, did not respond to messages from The Sun seeking comment. Georgia Angelos could not be reached through the team or the family.
The original buyers joining Peter Angelos in 1993 included the novelist Tom Clancy and tennis-star-turned-broadcaster Pam Shriver. The current group of 17 owners includes Peter Angelos; John Angelos; Louis Angelos; Clancy’s estate; his ex-wife, Wanda King; Shriver; filmmaker Barry Levinson, and philanthropist Harvey Meyerhoff, according to Major League Baseball’s website. After Clancy’s 1999 divorce, The Sun reported he’d split his 24% stake in the team evenly with King.
The breakdown of who owns how much isn’t publicly known. “It is not something we disclose,” said Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney.
With her husband incapacitated, Georgia Angelos controls a trust that contains his assets and she is effectively the team owner, having the same oversight authority Peter Angelos did. But John’s preferences matter because he is closely aligned with his mother and is also the “control person” designated by Major League Baseball to make decisions for the Orioles. He’s been chair and CEO of the team since 2020.
After his father’s death, John Angelos would consider selling a piece of the team, according to those familiar with his goals. They said he would like to diversify the family’s investments financially, while enhancing the diversity of the Orioles partnership with stakeholders from a variety of industries and varying racial and ethnic backgrounds.
“When people think about a sale of a team, they forget there is a minority shareholder group,” one of the people said.
The team official told The Sun that under ownership by John Angelos, the Orioles would further engage with the community in different ways, such as by becoming increasingly active in programs in Baltimore’s public schools. He has initiated fitness, healthy living and other programs for youth in Sarasota, Florida, where the team has its spring training headquarters.
Also, John Angelos has publicly expressed interest in Oriole Park hosting full-fledged concerts more frequently; it’s held its first two just in the last three years. His father was skeptical of such a use for the ballpark, telling The Sun in 2000 that he was “not going to have it become some kind of honky tonk for various and sundry rock ‘n’ roll bands.”
Peter and Georgia Angelos were widely seen in the community, making large public donations to and appearances at institutions such as University of Baltimore, hospitals and cultural organizations; the younger generation has been less involved. Peter, Georgia and Louis Angelos live in Baltimore County. John Angelos has homes in Baltimore and in Nashville with his wife, Margaret Valentine, a songwriter who owns a music management company, Pound It Out Loud.
There would be interest in obtaining pieces of the Orioles even without majority control, said Marc Ganis president and founder of Sportscorp Ltd., a Chicago-based sports consulting firm that has been involved in a number of team sales.
“In some cases, it’s a broader set of prospects. It’s a bigger universe that can invest $50 [million] or $100 [million] or $200 [million] or $300 million versus $2 billion,” Ganis said. “The universe is broader, but the interest is less, because you’re not looking at control.”
Forbes values the Orioles more than $1.37 billion. Peter Angelos and his fellow investors bought the team just over 29 years ago at auction for $173 million. At the time, that was nearly $50 million more than had ever been paid for a baseball team.
Further complicating the club’s future is that it has yet to sign a new lease binding it to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The original lease with the state began April 1, 1992, and was to expire at the end of 2021. The parties agreed in February 2021 to extend the agreement through Dec. 31, 2023, with the club retaining the right to exercise a one-time, five-year extension by Feb. 1, 2023.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Thomas Kelso said Friday that lease negotiations were ongoing, but declined further comment. The authority worked with the team and the General Assembly this year to pass a law that now allows the stadium authority to borrow up to $1.2 billion to pay for stadium improvements — $600 million each for the Orioles and Ravens. It specifies, however, that no bonds can be issued without a lease in place.